I used to think identity theft was just an over-hyped gimmick to get people to pay for credit reports and monitoring. That is, until my checking account was cleared out. Turns out, most major banks are not well equipped to handle ID theft, or even your money for that matter.

Late Thursday night, I got a call from the Phoenix Police Department. The officer said they had a subject in custody who had two forms of ID with my information on it.  Then the guy asked what I looked like. At first I thought it was a prank because people were joking around the office that I missed work on a Monday because I “lost my wallet”. As the officer began rattling off my personal information, I quickly realized this was no joke.

They said they caught this guy at BestBuy trying to use somebody else’s credit card to buy a whole bunch of computers. Apparently BestBuy’s register system pops up an alert code if there is somebody trying to use a card that has been reported lost or stolen, and they call the cops. Impressive. The police caught the guy red handed. With drugs. And paraphernalia. And a bunch of people’s personal information.

At the time, I thought they got the sucker before he could do any real damage. But just to be safe, I checked with Bank of America. I was shocked to see my account was overdrawn by almost $300. Last I checked, I had almost 40k in there.

A quick review turned up 5 suspicious transactions. Two were deposits, and three were withdrawals. All five transactions occurred *inside* five different Bank of America banking centers. What amazed me most is the final two transactions. A withdrawal of 26k. And later that day, another withdrawal of 12.5k. Way to spot suspicious activity Bank of America. They handed the guy almost 40k in cash in one day.

Turns out the first two transactions where not just deposits. They were checks written to me, Christopher Hooley. The first one was $6200. The guy kept $5k and left $1200 in my account. The next one was a day later at a different center for $7500. Again, the guy kept $5k. I saw the debit slip online, and this guy’s signature wasn’t even a remote attempt to copy mine. To make matters worse, it turns out he was forging checks from another valley business, who subsequently called the police on ME!

After seeing his writing, all of the sudden it felt personal. That was MY name, written as sloppily as I had ever seen it. Now I had to find out who this guy was.

A detective from the Phoenix PD was already assigned to my case. I never actually even spoke with him. I sent the detective an email with the list of fraudulent transactions on my bank account and that was pretty much all he needed. But I had his email address, so I shot him an email asking who the thief was.

The detective told me the suspect’s name was Christopher Cantrell. An identity thief heavily involved in drugs. That’s all I needed to know to find his case on MCSO.org. And right there in front of me was his mug shot and list of charges.  I dug further on Instant Checkmate and found even more garbage on this guy.  This guy, is a total low life.

Check this out:

Christopher Cantrell

Chris Cantrell

CANTRELL, CHRISTOPHER MCKAY #P438548

Booked: 07-09-2008

Sex: MALE
Race: WHITE
D.O.B: 10-11-1975
Height: 5’09
Weight: 200
Eye: BROWN
Hair: BLACK

In Custody For:
001 FELONY COUNT OF DANGEROUS DRUG-POSS FOR SALE
001 FELONY COUNT OF THEFT-CONTROL PROPERTY
001 FELONY COUNT OF ADMIT TKT-FRAUD CREATION/POSS
001 FELONY COUNT OF FORGERY-W/WRITTEN INSTRUMENT
005 FELONY COUNT OF FORGERY-POSS FORGED INSTRUMENT
001 FELONY COUNT OF FORGERY-POSS FORGED INSTRUMENT
001 FELONY COUNT OF FORGERY-POSS FORGED INSTRUMENT
001 FELONY COUNT OF FORGERY-OFFERS FORGED INSTRUM
001 FELONY COUNT OF TAKING IDENTITY OF ANOTHER
001 FELONY COUNT OF TAKING IDENTITY OF ANOTHER
001 FELONY COUNT OF TAKING IDENTITY OF ANOTHER
001 FELONY COUNT OF DANGEROUS DRUG-POSS/USE
001 FELONY COUNT OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA-POSSESS/USE

As you can see from the picture above the huge rap sheet, he’s pretty much a spitting image of me. So it’s understandable why 5 separate bank of America branches where confused, and allowed him to make huge cash withdrawals. He has trusting eyes.

But just for conjecture’s sake, here’s a picture of me.

Chris Hooley

The moral of this story is, if you want to steal somebody’s identity, you don’t need to mess with all that online stuff. Just get somebody’s info, make a fake license with your picture on it, and walk right into any Bank of America branch and just ask them to hand you the money in cash. It doesn’t matter if you look like a doper, or even if you’re on drugs at the time. Doesn’t even matter if you know your victim’s signature. All you need is their name and address and a fake ID, and you can clean out any Bank of America account!

In my next post. I’ll explain the aftermath and how Bank of America’s service is only second to their ability to protect your money from identity thieves. Stay tuned.